Success—One Failure at a Time

Entrepreneurs truly are wired differently and therefore don’t get invited back as panelists.  I recently atttended a conference on commercializing laboratory technologies.  The usual pundit classes were represented: Ph.Ds, tech transfer professionals, investors and a solitary entrepreneur. 

There Ought to Be an Entrepreneurial ORTA

Have you ever met an ORTA?  Every federally funded research laboratory with over 200 scientists, engineers or related technical staff  must have an Office of Research and Technology Applications whose mission it is to develop and promote relationships for technology transfer.  In most cases the ORTA is a person who is tasked with this mission.  A major problem facing our nation’s goal of creating and expanding companies with technology from our national labs is that most entrepreneurs have never met an ORTA.  It is time for this to change. 

Your Focus Needs More Focus

The euphoria associated with the initial imagination phases of a startup is addictive.  Universes of opportunities present themselves in rapid succession before your mind’s eye and it becomes easy to envisage that your nascent company can change the world.  But the process that allows you to imagine your changing the world is different from the process that will actually enable you to effect the change you seek.  Dream big but start small.

The Rise of the Disruptive Class

Within our society there exists a unique culture that thrives on the changes in the world.  For them change is the portent of opportunity.  They thrive on failure and exist in the underserved, underutilized and underappreciated markets often avoided by large corporations.   They are disruptive companies, with disruptive solutions creating disruptive products.  Welcome the rise of the entrepreneur, the Disruptive Class. 

Knowing Your Investment Readiness Level

Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) were originally developed by NASA to help describe the maturity of an invention or concept.  The lowest level, TRL One, is an idea or observation.  The top of the scale, TRL Nine, would describe something that is usable in the field, or in NASA’s mission, usable in space.  The TRL system has been adopted by many research agencies such as the departments of energy and defense, the European Space Agency and the FAA.  

Negotiating the Funding Desert

The Jornada del Muerto is a 100-mile stretch of dry, rocky, flat land in southern New Mexico that confronted early explorers and missionaries moving north from Mexico toward the legendary Seven Cities of Gold.  In Spanish the trail name literally means “The Route of the Dead Man” due to the lack of water, unpredictable terrain and extreme temperatures.  Despite the trail’s sinister reputation thousands of travelers chose to undertake the seven to ten-day journey because of the promise of riches beyond.  Many of the lessons learned by those early explorers are directly applica

Sorting Apples and Ideas

Every September the apple trees in my back yard begin to yield their annual harvest of red, ripe apples.  This year I have a bumper crop, which also means a huge number of windfall apples that I spend innumerable hours cleaning up and hauling away.  Added to that number are the “organic” apples, which are riddled with worms because I have forgotten to spray the trees in late spring.  In all I manage to harvest about 2 bushels of beautiful, unblemished apples for every 400-600 pounds of barely useable apples that I haul to the dump. 

Can You Describe Your Business?

“What business are you in?” Answering that question seems to flummox many of the frustrated entrepreneurs that I encounter and perhaps provides some insight into why they are struggling.  What seems to be a simple question often ends up being a very complex answer.  But should it be? 

Failure Is Always an Option

At a recent venture forum I watched as seven aspiring entrepreneurs promoted their funding opportunities for consideration by the assembled investors.  Two of them stood out.  Not for their technology or for their business strategy but rather because of a single phrase.  Both presenters, endeavoring to demonstrate to the audience their drive to succeed, proudly announced, “Failure is not an option!” 

Words Matter

It’s like Facebook, you know.  Kinda does the same stuff but more local and better.  It uses algorithmic optimization through its SQL interconnectivity for SEO. We’re gonna market it virally and everybody is gonna wanna be part of it.” Over the last few years I have heard countless variations of this awkward theme from entrepreneurs seeking funding from venture capitalists.  The problem I am describing is not the business strategy, though that could use some work; it is the paucity of information conveyed in the description of the investment opportunity. 

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